(Left to right) Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, and United Arab Emirates' Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, pose for a group photo following their Negev meeting in the Israeli kibbutz of Sde Boker on March 28, 2022. (JACQUELYN MARTIN / POOL / AFP)
JERUSALEM - Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Monday that the conference of foreign ministers between Israel and four Arab countries will become a permanent annual regional forum in future.
Lapid made the announcement after hosting the first conference with the foreign ministers from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt that kicked off Sunday in Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the Negev Desert in southern Israel and the final home of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding father and first prime minister.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid hailed the conference for "making history," as it marks the first time that Israel hosts a meeting with Arab foreign ministers. He also invited the Palestinians to join the forum in future
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also attended the two-day conference, which mainly discussed the emerging agreement on renewing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and ways to build a regional partnership.
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Lapid hailed the conference for "making history," as it marks the first time that Israel hosts a meeting with Arab foreign ministers. He also invited the Palestinians to join the forum in future.
The top Israeli diplomat said the countries are forming a new partnership based on religious tolerance and cooperation in the fields of economy, technology, security and intelligence, adding that the partnership will help "counter threats from Iran."
Israel and Gulf Arab countries share concerns over the possible revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, under which the US eased sanctions in exchange for Iran's curbing its nuclear program. But the previous US administration under President Donald Trump unilaterally quitted the pact in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.
However, the current US government under President Joe Biden wants to restore the deal through the talks held in the Austrian capital Vienna by Iran and other major signatory parties, in which the US has been indirectly involved.
The Vienna talks, which have been held for eight rounds so far, are reportedly nearing an agreement. Israel, Iran's arch foe in the region, has been steadfast against renewing the deal, fearing that it will enable Iran to obtain nuclear weapons without the burden of the US-led sanctions.
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In a bid to soothe the worries of Israel and Arab states, Blinken vowed that the US will continue to work together with its allies to confront "common security challenges and threats, including those from Iran and its proxies."
Blinken also hailed the US-brokered Abraham Accords, under which the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco normalized their ties with Israel in 2020.
He added that the accords cannot be a substitute for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For his part, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry echoed Blinken on the importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"We did highlight the importance of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the importance of maintaining the credibility and viability of the two-state solution," Shoukry said.